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What are your reasons for becoming a translator?
Thread poster: Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 02:40
German to English
+ ...
Nov 10, 2001

We have seen too many negative messages recently regarding the decline in rates and standards, the economic situation, etc.



I believe, therefore, that it is high time we focused on some more positive aspects.



I would like to hear from the ProZ community about their reasons and motivations for becoming translators in the first place. In particular, I\'d be interested in the following:



- reason/motivation for becoming a translator



- number of years in business



- location(s)



- what do you regard as the main characteristics/qualities/qualifications/skills a translator should/must/ought to have?



- given everything you know now, would you ever go back to being a translator if you could turn back the clock? If yes, why and would you change anything? If no, why not?



- my best AND my worst experience



- I really love/hate my job because ...



- and finally: if I had not gone into translation, I would have .......





And feel free to add other information and thoughts you may have on this subject. I look forward to reading your comments.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-10 19:34 ]


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Alison Schwitzgebel
Germany
Local time: 08:40
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
yes, let's get positive! Nov 11, 2001

Well, how did it all begin? I found a tiny German-English dictionary in the summer holidays before I started secondary school, and, seeing as I was going to start German classes that year, I started to learn the words off by heart. I guess that\'s where it all started. Boy did I get a shock when I got into class and found out about grammar for the first time!!



Ever since then I knew that I wanted to work with German, but for many years I was convinced that I would never make it as a translator because I only had one language pair and all the top translation courses required at least two pairs.



So I came to Germany and worked for many years in investment banking and corporate real estate, and although I translated many documents as part of my daily work, I really started translating for a living eight years after leaving university. I was at home, heavily pregnant with my daughter and my husband - also a translator - was offered a job that I felt confident about taking on. So that\'s how I started translating for a living... gosh, that was more than three years ago. How time flies.



After a spell working as an in-house translator I went freelance again early this year.



What characteristics should a translator have?

- a mind like a (well-ordered) rubbish tip

- a love of words

- an ability to communicate

- a touch of perfectionism

- thorough knowledge of the subject matter to be translated (I don\'t touch anything I don\'t understand)



I LOVE translating for a living. I couldn\'t imagine ever doing anything else. I guess it\'s the feeling of flow I get when I\'m translating - it\'s like a drug!!



My best experience? When customers tell me I\'ve done a great job.



Worst experience? Tendonitis in my left wrist from working too much (even with an ergonomic keyboard!)



If I hadn\'t become a translator, I would probably have been really frustrated with myself for many years, because I get such a kick out of turning a piece of German writing into English.



Well, that\'s me and my translating experience - I look forward to reading any other postings!



Alison


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:40
Member
German to English
+ ...
OK - I'll give it a go! Nov 11, 2001

- reason/motivation for becoming a translator



Seemed like a good idea at the time! No great vocation, just wanted to do something that would involve the languages, and translation was all I could think of!



- number of years in business



4.5



- location(s)



UK



- what do you regard as the main characteristics/qualities/qualifications/skills a translator should/must/ought to have?



Tricky! A lot of the characteristics relate to the nature of the work as a freelancer. So you need discipline, self-motivation and the ability to be able to work on your own. Because the work is often lonely, it can be more tricky for gregarious people!



As far as actually translating, that also depends on the nature of the work you are doing. But an excellent command of language and good writing style is a good start, attention to detail, research skills, etc. The key thing is that knowledge of language alone is often not enough ...



- given everything you know now, would you ever go back to being a translator if you could turn back the clock? If yes, why and would you change anything? If no, why not?



If I could do it all again, I\'d do it exactly the same. To be honest, I never really expected translation to be as rewarding (both financially and professionally) as it has been, I looked at it more as something to do until I found something better! Now I love it!



- my best AND my worst experience



I think the nature of the game is that there are no real highs and lows. Good experiences are getting the good jobs, getting new customers, getting good feedback, etc.



Worst experiences, not getting paid - although I\'ve been lucky enough to only have one bill that wasn\'t paid. Twenty pounds! Wasn\'t enough to be worth worrying about but did teach me a valuable lesson! Working late into the night with deadlines looming isn\'t that much fun either!



- I really love/hate my job because ...



Again, the things I love about translating are about working from home. I can take time off as and when I want. I can work in a wonderful part of the countryside, don\'t have to commute into a grimy city, etc.



- and finally: if I had not gone into translation, I would have .......



stagnated! Ended up teaching or working in an office in a job I hated!



Think you\'ve pretty much covered it all!


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Gilda Manara  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 08:40
German to Italian
+ ...
survey on the ProZ community Nov 11, 2001

Hi Werner,



it is a lot of questions you are putting - should even a small percentage out of the 20,000 and more translators answer, it will become a huge forum... Why don\'t you agree with Henry the possibility of making a survey, out of it? a statistical result - the profile of the average translator - might be of interest for many people, I suppose...



Gilda


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Telesforo Fernandez
Local time: 12:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good questions Nov 11, 2001

Werner, the answer to these questions would give a good insight into the translator\'s mind.

As for me, please read my profile, it has answers to 99% of the questions.



Telesforo Fernandez

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-11-11 07:51 ]


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Werner George Patels, M.A., C.Tran.(ATIO)
Local time: 02:40
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good point Nov 11, 2001

Yes, we should do a ProZ survey on that. Henry, what do you think? We could gain some valuable insights.

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Derek Smith  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
Italian to English
+ ...
More than this, I cannot say Nov 11, 2001

Dear Werner, I find that I can only answer your questionnaire in part, I hope this will suffice.

- reason/motivation for becoming a translator

To earn money

- number of years in business

13

- location(s)

Modena (Italy)

- what do you regard as the main characteristics/qualities/qualifications/skills a translator should/must/ought to have?

(1) A brain interconnnected with sensory and motor systems

(2) Basic structural systems such as elbows and a comfortable bottom.

- given everything you know now, would you ever go back to being a translator if you could turn back the clock? If yes, why and would you change anything? If no, why not?

I cannot accept your hypothetical clause about tinkering with clocks

- my best AND my worst experience

Earning a lot and receiving praise / earning very little and being subjected to justifiable criticism

- I really love/hate my job because ...

I never answer this type of question unless prizes are being offered

- and finally: if I had not gone into translation, I would have...

I sometimes imagine myself as a rough fellow with a snarl and a pistol.

Maximum Respect

Derek


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:40
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reasons Jan 8, 2002

I love the job, Werner, and I don\'t earn half as much as many others. I travelled because of it, I studied because of it, and I\'d probably be doing something related to it if I weren\'t into it.

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jccantrell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:40
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
My $0.02 Jan 9, 2002

Let me see if I can add to this. I agree it might make a good survey, especially if collated and made available to all the outside sites that use ProZ as a resource. Let them see what it REALLY takes.



- reason/motivation for becoming a translator

I was in Germany at the time, looking for work as an engineer. I had a job offer at an engineering firm, to start \"when we get the contract.\" Then I went and interviewed for a translator job and the response was, \"Can you start NOW?\"



- number of years in business

> 25 (God, has it been THAT long?)



- location(s)

USA



- what do you regard as the main characteristics/qualities/qualifications/skills a translator should/must/ought to have?

Translators MUST enjoy reading. Not just the texts, virtually everything they get their hands on, both in the source and target languages. If reading is a chore, look for some other profession.

Translators must enjoy solitary confinement As most work is done alone in a room, if you are a pronounced social animal, look for some other profession.



- given everything you know now, would you ever go back to being a translator if you could turn back the clock? If yes, why and would you change anything? If no, why not?

Yes, emphatically. My primary work is as an engineer, I translate part-time AND because I have the two traits listed above. It has allowed me to have a secondary work outlet that I enjoy and that makes me money--a rare combination.



- my best AND my worst experience

My best experience was trying to convince the civil servant in Germany that I could earn a living doing translation full-time. Oh, boy, if he only knew that within 3 months of starting I was making 2-4 times what HE was making!

Worst: Interpreting at a business conference. I learned what areas to stay away from.



- I really love/hate my job because ...

Being free-lance, I have complete control over what I do and when I do it. I love this aspect of the job.

Being free-lance, I have a horrible boss who makes Simon LaGree look like a pussy cat! Never lets me take vacation, always pushing for higher-quality work, always wants it done faster ... oh, wait, *I* am the boss!



- and finally: if I had not gone into translation, I would have .......

I did both! Started as an electronics engineer and then moved into computer software. Now I work on the software that is put into satellites. I truly have the best of both worlds.





Boy, that sounds like an advertisement.



Other items that translators might like to have: A love of the source language and a sound foundation in the target language.

A technical education and background in your area of specialization and in the target language are also VERY nice to have.



That should be all for now. If there is a survey on this, I might be able to think of more.


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